Novel production technologies are allowing for the addition of omega‑3 fatty oils to an expanding number of foods and beverages, imparting the assortment of scientifically backed health benefits to consumers without the unpleasant fishy odor or taste. As essential fatty acids that support cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous system health, omega‑3 oils are in demand and the attention is helping to fuel growth in the still maturing industry, according to "Omega ‑3 Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition" by market research publisher Packaged Facts.
The report estimates U.S. retail sales of food and beverage products with a "high omega‑3" or "high DHA" claim–predominantly meaning omega-enhanced products–grew 11% and approached $4 billion in 2010. Packaged Facts predicts the U.S. omega‑3 ingredient market will grow 40% between 2010–2015, as U.S. retail sales of "high omega‑3" or "high DHA" foods and beverages (excluding fish) approach $7 billion by the end of the forecast period.
For many years, fish oils and powders, the main sources of omega‑3 fatty acids, were primarily consumed as dietary supplements. As technology allowed different formulations, marketers began to add fish oils to different types of foods, beginning with spreads and oils and continuing into dairy products, cereals and even fruit-flavored beverages. Consumer perceptions that fish oils and powders impart a bad taste or smell to food had impeded the unlimited introduction of omega fatty acids into all types of foods and beverages, although these concerns have largely been resolved.
"When the first omega-3-enriched foods entered the market in 2003, some predicted that there would be a flood of products within a couple of years. But the challenges of finding ways to get the fatty acids into foods and beverages, making the resulting product palatable and achieving a reasonable shelf-life were more daunting than expected," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "Now that many of these technology hurdles have been overcome, more categories of products have become viable candidates for fortification with omega fatty acids. Several industry experts we interviewed believe that the biggest trend in the next five to ten years will be food and beverage companies seeking to fortify their products with omegas."[Source: "Omega ‑3 Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition." Packaged Facts. 1 June 2011. Web. 2 June 2011.]